After losing four of its last five games, volleyball is attempting to regain the energy needed to rebound as it nears the final stretch of the regular season.
The team’s 2-3 Atlantic 10 record currently places them at No. 6 in the conference, a spot below their No. 5 preseason ranking. The Colonials’ sole A-10 wins have come against Rhode Island and Saint Louis, who occupy the bottom two spots in the conference standings.
The Colonials are slated for nine more A-10 matchups in the regular season including a four-game road trip against two opponents above GW in the A-10 standings – first place VCU and fourth place La Salle – and Davidson and Duquesne who fall below.
Head coach Sarah Bernson said she believes her team is poised to jump ahead with a winning run if they can manage to recreate the upbeat energy they have been struggling to maintain through the highs and lows of each game.
“We’re very optimistic that we’re going to pull out a stretch here and end in a more consistent manner,” Bernson said. “It’s just kind of a struggle while we get there.”
One of the most critical moments in GW’s season so far came in a loss to George Mason, which members of the team called a turning point in their season.
Before the Patriots’ Sept. 29 victory, GW had won every matchup between the two squads since 2007. Bernson said her team was confident they would come out on top before a single point was played, which contributed to their defeat.
“That was a clear lesson that they have to be a little more intentional and purposeful in what they’re trying to do each day,” Bernson said. “That lesson has definitely carried over.”
Senior middle blocker Alexis Lete said the loss was a harsh reminder that going forward, no opponent can be underestimated.
“The Mason game was a wake-up call that we’re not maybe as good as we think we are,” Lete said.
Even though the team has focused on adjusting their mentality after the frustrating match at George Mason, they have since suffered losses to Fordham and West Virginia.
In the past five games, the squad has struggled to create points for themselves, averaging a .112 attack percentage compared to .146 percent on the season.
On the other side of the ball, they have also failed to post a consistent block to hinder their opponents’ attack game. GW’s opponents have totaled a .250 attack percentage against them in the last five matchups, and every team they have faced through the stretch has out-hit them.
Sophomore outside hitter Marianna Warren said that one of the most glaring problems the team has faced is that once other teams gain momentum, the Colonials struggle to stop them.
“We start off very slow and then we realize we need some energy to kick in and we kind of get it, but we need to start it off early rather than late,” Warren said.
In the team’s sole win of the five-game stretch against Rhode Island Friday, Bernson said her athletes’ consistent positive demeanor on the court allowed them to secure the win. In the victory, the offense swung for a .275 attack percentage, their highest since a Sept. 14 win against Alabama A&M.
After suffering a sweep against Big 12 opponent West Virginia Tuesday, Bernson said the team did not make a conscious effort to maintain good energy on the floor, which resulted in a slow start and ultimately a loss.
“We were just so joyful on Friday and then I think there was an expectation that would just happen again,” Bernson said. “It’s learning that we create our joy.”
The Colonials have also been without their starting setter, junior Jaimeson Lee, who has been unavailable for the past three games.
“This is sports and you have to see what your subs can do,” Bernson said. “We don’t just have a team of seven and we only play with that.”
Freshman setter Heather Merryman, who has filled Lee’s spot in the lineup, earned A-10 Rookie of the Week honors last week for her performances against Rhode Island and Fordham.
Bernson added that part of the team’s difficulties rest in the fact that she and her staff are still only in their second year. She said there are still new challenges that the team has been presented with this season, which Bernson called “sophomore-itis.”
“Even if we have seniors and juniors, it’s still year two of what we’re doing so having that perspective is hard and we have to kind of remind ourselves,” Bernson said.
The Colonials return to the action Friday at 7 p.m. against Davidson on the road.
This article appeared in the October 11, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.